I read a review today about an Osmia. It was a good review, well written and nicely illustrated, but it raised an issue that always bothers me. The piston mechanism of the pen is metal which adds considerably to the weight. The reviewer equated weight, or “heft” as he put it, with quality.

It’s a recent idea to regard weight in a pen as a sign of quality. If heavier is better, then cheap Chinese pens must be best of all, composed as they are of lengths of brass tubing.

Frankly, this thinking makes no sense to me. Producers of writing instruments, whether fountain pens, mechanical pencils or even ballpoints, have never aimed for increased weight until recently. To my mind, as someone who has used fountain pens for decades, often for many hours at a time, the nearer to zero weight a pen is, the better. The best pens I have ever used have been hard rubber or celluloid Watermans, Wahl Eversharps, Onotos and Swans. The heaviest thing about them was the ink they contained.

Personally, I’m inclined to believe that the preference for a heavy pen indicates that the owner values other aspects of the pen over its writing qualities, and doesn’t actually fill a lot of pages. Indeed, it’s only since the fountain pen ceased to be one of the main ways of getting words on paper that weight has been seen as an indicator of quality.

The other main writing instrument until recent times was the wooden pencil. Millions of clerks filled millions of ledgers with all the indicators of business from production to sales and most of them did it with wooden pencils, sharpened until they were no more than a stub. So far as I’m aware, it was not a common complaint that pencils didn’t weigh enough, or that they would write better if they weighed more.

I’m aware that I may be falling behind the times, but I dislike heavy pens. I find them tiring, and from a purely practical point of view, they offend my sense of efficiency and good design.

Your mileage may vary of course.


2 thoughts on “Heft

  1. Hear, hear! I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds heavy pens impractical, and I also find the trend of jumbo-sized pens highly amusing. Eventually, the pendulum of hype will swing back to smaller, lighter pens.

    (This is my first comment on your blog, but I’ve been reading since your return and always look forward to your posts!)

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